As discussions rage on about how to handle Test FTPs in the future, one thing for sure is that T20 is here to stay. With two installments of IPL completed and the world having a better understanding of how to approach T20, the 2nd World cup recently completed in England without the surprise element that the original one had in South Africa two years ago. There was a distinct maturing of the game, with players like Dilshan, Gul, Afridi and Malinga showcasing their talents to offer new dimensions to this latest format.
Below is the team by team synopsis for the World Cup. The teams have been listed in order of their finish in the tournament but the grades are not necessarily a reflection of the ranking. Other factors were taken into account such as expectations, recent form, preparation (including warm ups), of course performance and result.
PAKISTAN: Deserves the praise that came their way for winning the tournament. Despite two one-sided losses to England and Sri Lanka, they won the matches when it did count and did so in a significant way. With their players not eligible to play for the IPL this year, the country in turmoil and their home cricket in jeopardy, the team pulled together as a unit and seemed to enjoy their time on the field together. The only blemish on the team would be Younis Khanâ€™s comments of calling T20 a â€˜spectacleâ€™ (he later tried to justify this as a psychological ploy on his team) after losing the opening match to England and opening the possibility of an early disappointing exit. Having Razzaq back boosted them and also shed light on the cricket potential absent from International cricket the last two years due to the BCCI/ICL battle. Despite their earlier losses, their championship is a symbol of winning with almost everything else going against them. Grade: A+
SRI LANKA: Warriors to the end. Sri Lanka too came into the tournament with domestic concerns and a narrow escape of what could have been a wipeout of their entire team in Pakistan. They remained undefeated until the moment it mattered, similar to New Zealand in 1992. Sri Lanka will be relieved to know that their team is in good hands following a captaincy change from Jayawardane to Sangakarra. Sangakarra played a captainâ€™s knock in the final to prevent a drubbing but the 3M combo of Murali, Mendis and Malinga was/is a nightmare for any batting line up. Throw in a 3 wicket first over in the semi final by Mathews and M stands for Magnificent Sri Lankan Bowling line up. They exceeded expectations by making it past the 2nd round and were probably the 2nd best team (next to South Africa) overall in terms of performance throughout the tournament. Grade: A
SOUTH AFRICA: Best team heading into the semi finals by performance in addition to being a pre tournament favorite (tied with India). Lost again when the stakes were high but Pakistan was the better team that day. They are probably a world class spinner away from being the number one threat to win. It says a lot about your team when losing a tight semi final match can be considered a failure. They get a lower grade than fellow semi finalists West Indies despite being undefeated till then simply due to the expectations and performance (both in the T20 and IPL with top forms of AB DeVillers, Kallis, Morkel) leading up to the knockout stage. Grade: B
WEST INDIES: Surprisingly successful tournament along with Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Gayle backed his love for T20 over the other forms with a total annihilation of the Aussies and the lone innings against Sri Lanka in the semis. Obviously, the Stanford T20 tournaments did bring about some good in their cricket. With wins for Australia, India and hosts England, their campaign was noteworthy especially after losing to South Africa in 2007 after posting a 200+ total and unexpectedly losing to Bangladesh. Grade A-
ENGLAND: They were able to exit with some pride after an embarrassing opening loss to the Dutch. They defeated both the finalists from last world cup (India/Pakistan) comprehensively before being taken out by a skilled South Africa and a determined West Indies. They were more concerned about the Ashes anyways despite being the originators of the game as well as the format. Despite their wins, the loss to Netherlands and the fact that they were the home team hurts them with the grade. Grade C+
NEW ZEALAND: Things may have been different with Ryder and Taylor healthy for them. They thrashed Scotland and Ireland and took SA to the limit but couldnâ€™t keep up with the big winners PAK and SL at the end. This was an opportunity for McCullum to shake off the cobwebs of a horrible IPL season. The team chemistry seemed lacking and the fight simply wasnâ€™t there in the games against PAK and SL where a win in either would have been enough to stay alive. Grade C
INDIA: Disappointing tournament despite having probably the most talented T20 roster. The only wins were the obvious ones against Ireland and Bangladesh and even the Bangladesh match may have gone awry had it not been for a missed stumping of Yuvraj before his blitz. Losses to WI and ENG were unacceptable given the talent level and the defending World champion role. Maybe they were suffering from cricket overkill after a long IPL season but the team did not seem to be in harmony as they during 2007 edition. Grade D
IRELAND: Success by accomplishing what they set out to do. They gunned down Bangladesh for a second successive World cup and showed promising bowling efforts against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Niall Oâ€™Brian is a class act and can hold his own against any other wicket-keeping batsmen out there. They showed poise and are easily distancing themselves from the other associates and making a strong case to sit at the table alongside Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Grade B+
NETHERLANDS: Success by winning their first game against England. They were probably too wrapped up with the run rate when playing Pakistan instead of focusing the same way they did with England. Shows promise for growth of Cricket. Grade B+
BANGLADESH: For a team under the microscope of the whole cricketing world and not to mention their fans, they loss to Ireland cannot be excused. The team arrived early and showed promise in the warm-up matches and in spurts vs. India, but failed to succeed in the one task which appeared to be a given. Expectations of a win against a major nation were there following 3 significant World Cup wins in 2007 (IND, SA, and WI in T20). The team seemed more focused on how to handle the 2nd round than paying Ireland the respect they deserved. Combine the results with the comments of the players; this outing was a total failure. In fairness, an F would have been handed to India, England, Pakistan, South Africa and New Zealand too had they failed to make it past the first round. Grade F
AUSTRALIA: Disappointing tournament all around starting with Symondsâ€™ unceremonious exit. It seems as if Ponting just canâ€™t get his arms around this format. Also missing a quality spinner hurt them. A team consisting or retirees and players off radar (Gilchrist, Hayden, Warne, Hodge) probably would have brought success (possibly a championship). Despite a 1st round exit, they score better than India and Bangladesh due to the (a) toughness of their group where both SL and WI made the Semis, (b) lack of preparation and (c) missing key players due to retirements and suspensions. Grade C+
SCOTLAND: They can take the batting performance against New Zealand back home as something to build on which is more than what Bangladesh and Australia can do. With support of ECB and along with Ireland and the Dutch, they can impact the limited overs arena (ODI/T20) in the coming years. It was an average tournament for them where they generated some buzz against New Zealand and didnâ€™t embarrass themselves. Grade B-